Clyde 2, Berwick Rangers 1
BERWICK’S winter woes continued with a third defeat in four games to a dreadful Clyde outfit at Broadwood on Saturday, to leave the black and gold marooned in seventh place in the league, on equal points with their eighth-placed hosts.
This was the classic game of two halves. Rangers were in complete control throughout the opening 45, but their inability to kill teams off came back to haunt them when an off-colour Dougie Brydon’s error let a hitherto anonymous Kevin Watt in to score an 89th-minute winner. Football can be a cruel game at times, but this Rangers side needs to toughen up if it is to rescue a season rapidly slipping beyond rescue.
Before the match, one Clyde fans said the current team was the worst he’d seen in 35 years of supporting his club. That admission puts this defeat into some kind of perspective, and though Rangers can justifiably claim to have played most of the football during an always intriguing encounter, the fact is that they lost out to dismal opponents.
If they can’t see off Clyde, God help them when they go to Links Park to meet a resurgent Montrose and then to Ibrox to meet a Rangers side on a roll of 10 consecutive wins.
In mitigation, Ian Little lost midfield linchpin Steven Notman to illness before the match, which required further tinkering to a reshuffle that saw keeper Bejaoui and Dean Hoskins dropped, while Devon Jacobs was relegated to bench duty.
Dean Carse was given his first start in a wide midfield position, while Neil Janczyk came in for Notman. Andy McLean and Damon Gielty replaced the regular full backs in a major shake-up that reflected the management’s growing frustration with their team’s performances.
Carse will remember his debut for a long time, after the youngster gave Rangers the perfect start with a second-minute opener. Good work from McDonald allowed the youngster to cut in from the right and arrow a low 22 yarder past Jamie Barclay and into the corner. It was a cracker, and Carse went on to show real promise with a refreshing willingness to run at the Clyde defence.
The emergence of the likes of Carse and Lavery is one of this campaign’s bright spots, and testament to the successful work of reserves team manager Mark Lamb and his colleagues.
Ten minutes later, Clyde defender Kane produced a goal-saving tackle to deny Darren Lavery after a flowing Rangers move had opened up the home defence.
With Currie and Janczyk exerting an iron grip on midfield, McDonald’s perfect through ball put Ross Gray in but there were no takers for his tempting low cross, a regrettably familiar theme.
McLean’s slack 17th-minute throw in almost put Watt through but he was crowded out before he could threaten McCaldon’s goal. Barclay kept the deficit at a single goal with a brilliant save from Janczyk’s 22nd minute piledriver, which looked in all the way until the maligned keeper got across to parry the ball wide for a sequence of four Rangers’ corners.
McDonald should have added to Rangers’ lead just after the half hour mark after Carse and Gray put McLean in for a lovely cross which the midfielder headed wide of an open goal. Half time arrived with that familiar fear gnawing away at the Rangers support - their team should have been out of sight but their profligacy would inevitably come back to bite them in the backside.
Predictably, Clyde improved after the break. They couldn’t have been any worse, though they were encouraged by some bizarre Rangers’ defending. McLean and Brydon’s defensive radar ,going haywire with random hoofs into the crowd or back into the danger zone. More Sunday league than Third Division.
For all that, Rangers started the second period where they left off the first, Lee Currie’s 18 yrd shot drifting inches wide with Barclay lumbering hopelessly in its wake. Comedy time arrived a minute later, Fitzharris’ low cross causing carnage in the Berwick defence. An impromptu bout of pinball ensued before the ball trickled in off the unlucky Brydon’s shins.
It was a hellish goal to lose and had an immediate impact on Rangers’ fragile confidence. They need to man up when it comes to losing goals and show greater resilience.
By now, the game had evened out and with Clyde compact in defence, Rangers found it increasingly difficult to manufacture any meaningful chances. The threat came from their own casualness and McDonald was almost caught out in the 75th minute after loitering on the edge of his own box. McCaldon made a brilliant point blank save from Watt eleven minutes from time, and then Stuart Noble showed commendable honesty to stay on his feet after Oliver tripped him in the box.
With the draw looming, McLuskey broke down Rangers’ right but Brydon missed a simple clearance from his tame cross, allowing Watt all the time in the world to bury a five yard shot beyond the helpless McCaldon. The big keeper produced the save of the game in the final minute to deflect McLuskey’s powerful shot on to the bar before ref Aitken called time on another desperately disappointing afternoon for Rangers.
Ian Little doesn’t have his problems to seek for the next bunch of games. With Notman ill, Townsley carried off with a back injury and suspension heading Brydon’s way, a thin squad in desperate need of experienced reinforcements will be stretched to its limits.
Rangers have a capable management team and a smattering of very good players, but as a team they are not robust enough, physically or mentally.
Montrose have written the template, and Rangers should be learning the secrets of their success this season if they want to start moving upwards.
Clyde: Barclay, Kane, Marsh, Oliver, Sharp, Fitzharris, Sweeney, Hay (McCluskey 67), McColm (McDonald 76), Gilfillan (Scullion 77), Watt.
Berwick Rangers: McCaldon 7, McLean 4, Townsley 6, Brydon 4, Gielty 5, Carse 6, Currie 8, Janczyk 6, McDonald 5, Gray 7, Lavery 5.
Man of the match: Lee Currie. Driving force in midfield, and worked tirelessly throughout
Referee: Greg Aitken.